Pho {Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup}


There’s no other way to put this: Pho {Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup} is my favourite food in the world. Simply put, there’s no other food I crave more than this. Fragrant beef broth made aromatic by simmering with toasted spices, ginger, and scallions poured over paper thin slices of beef on top of rice noodles are good enough by themselves, but with the traditional Pho toppings of bean sprouts, fresh cilantro and basil, thin slices of hot peppers (if you’re brave), and a squeeze of lime, you’re absolutely in another world; a world where everything is a taste explosion! No noodle soup will ever be able to compare again after jumping on the Pho train!

Pho or Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup from

I went ahead and said it, didn’t I? I said the ‘favourite’ word. It’s not quite akin to picking your favourite child, but for a food blogger it’s close. This soup is it, though. This is the food I crave more than any other in the world. Pho (pronounced fuh?) is my happy food. When I’m celebrating, I want pho. When I’m sad, I want pho. When I’m horribly sick, this soup -THIS PHO- is what my cells NEED to feel better. What’s the big deal? Isn’t it just a noodle soup?

Well, I’ll tell you this now, that giant sucking sound you just heard was the enormous, simultaneous gasp for air from all those who love pho around the world. It’s what every noodle soup aspires to be when it grows up. It’s everything a soup wants to be and it ALL STARTS WITH THE BROTH.

Now that whooshing sound? That was all the pho lovers nodding their heads simultaneously. The broth is complex. In this case, we’re making beef pho, so it starts with beef broth (duh, right?). It’s not just any beef broth, though… No, no, no.

Spices for pho on

You could argue that the best pho starts with homemade, slow-simmered beef broth and I wouldn’t disagree with you, but I’m going to say that the KEY to this is the right combo of toasted spices: coriander seed, star anise, cinnamon stick, and clove. Saaaaay WHAH? Yep, you heard me. What makes you think “CINNABON!” is exactly what you want here.

Pho aromatics strained from the broth on

Don’t worry! You’ll strain it out before you finish your soup.

Noodles for pho on Beef and noodles waiting for broth for pho from Broth being poured over beef and noodles for pho from Pho or Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup waiting for garnish from

It may even SMELL cinnabon-y while it’s simmering, but I guarantee all association with cinnamon rolls will flee when you taste it poured over the paper thin slices of raw beef atop your rice noodles. Please don’t look at me like that. Yes, raw beef. You make the slices as thin as humanly possible and put them on hot noodles then top them with boiling broth. They’re plenty cooked when it comes time to slurp the works up, and slurp you will.

The final assembly of the soup is a wonder of kitchen alchemy and a thing of beauty. Rice noodles go down in the bowl. If you want, throw a couple thin slices of  fresh jalapeno into the bowl first. Impossibly thin slices of flank steak are draped over the noodles. Boiling pho broth is poured over the beef, noodles, and jalapeno slices. Give it a quick stir with your spoon, a fork, or chopsticks to help the beef along. Top it with fists full of fresh bean sprouts, sliced scallions, cilantro, and basil. Squeeze some lime wedges over the top and -please- a little squirt or five of sriracha. Then swoon.

Pho or Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup from

Cook’s Notes

  • Flank steak is ideal, but in a pinch, you can substitute top or bottom round sliced super thin.
  • Speaking of slicing beef super thin, you’ll find it’s a lot easier if you do two things: a) have a VERY sharp knife and b) stick your steak in the freezer for 15 minutes or so before attempting to slice it. That will make it more firm which translates to easier to slice. And if you’re worried about frozen beef cooking in the boiling broth, don’t be. Remember… this is super thin stuff.  It’ll probably thaw before you’re even ready to put it on the noodles!
  • Aaaaand speaking of noodles, these pho noodles rock. (affiliate link). Rice noodles are the most traditional (and tastiest) choice. They have the added convenience of not needing to be boiled. You can soak them in super hot water for 10 minutes in a bowl while you’re simmering the stock or prepping the rest of the ingredients.
  • Broth: Yep. Homemade is best. If you can’t do it, though, use a good quality, low-sodium canned beef stock or broth. You’re going to be giving it a major boost in self-confidence anyway with the spices.
  • Toasted spices: Watch ’em. Oh please watch them. Don’t walk out of the room. The second you smell them you add that stock or broth pronto and watch out for the sputtering!
  • Be generous in your servings! Pho is traditionally served in bowls about as big as your head. Fill it up!

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Pho {Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup}
For 1 quart of the Broth:
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick, roughly broken
  • 4 whole star anise
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 quart beef broth
  • 1 (3-inch size) piece of ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch of scallions or green onions, white parts only (reserve the green parts for garnishing the soup)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
For assembling and garnishing each bowl of Pho:
  • 1-5 slices fresh jalapeno pepper (depending on your spice tolerance)
  • 1 handful pho rice noodles (soaked or cooked according to package directions)
  • ⅛-1/4 pound flank steak, sliced paper thin
  • 1 generous handful bean sprouts
  • sliced scallions or green onions (green parts only) to taste
  • several sprigs of fresh basil
  • sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • 1-3 lime wedges
  • sriracha and/or hoisin sauce to taste
  1. Place a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium low heat. Add all of the spices and stir them until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully add the beef broth; it will sputter quite a bit. Turn the heat to high and add the remaining broth ingredients. When it reaches a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 20-30 minutes. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve into another saucepot or soup pot. Keep it at a simmer while you assemble your bowls and garnishes.
To Assemble and Garnish Each Bowl of Pho:
  1. Lay desired amount of jalapeno slices in the bottom of each bowl. Top with a generous amount of rice noodles. Drape the beef evenly over the noodles and pour the boiling broth over top. Give a quick stir to help cook the beef, then pile on bean sprouts, sliced scallions (green onions), basil, and cilantro. Squeeze a couple of lime wedges and let them rest in the broth to lend to the flavour. Serve with sriracha and/or hoisin sauce. It's best to serve this the traditional way: with chopsticks AND a soup spoon. You can use a fork in lieu of chopsticks if you wish. Slurping is encouraged!


homemade Pho or Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup


  1. says

    I never imagined pho broth had that level of spices, also, we generously spoon/pour hoisin sauce right along with sriracha sauce, just had this at my sister’s house in California over the weekend – phenomenal!,

  2. Rachael says

    You nailed it – I too crave this soup when I am happy, sad, sick, or celebrating! Thanks for the recipe, your photos and your pho enthusiasm!!

  3. Jessica says

    nice recipe!! i suggest broiling, roasting or bbqing the ginger and a large onion before adding to the broth( and if you’re making the beef broth from scratch, roast the beef bones first!) Creating an amazing depth of flavour!

  4. says

    Your bowl of Pho looks incredibly yummy. I love how you write the recipe in very details and also the photos make it so easy to follow.

  5. Pat says

    are you saying that 1 quart of broth is needed for each serving? This is my son’s fave and so I am making it for his birthday.

    • says

      Not really a full quart, but servings in restaurants are usually pretty generous… and there’s nothing wrong with having leftover broth! I like about half to three quarters of a quart in each serving around here.

      • Pat says

        update. I made this as instructed over the weekend. My doubtful son was duly impressed. Thanks for an easy recipe. And I agree that there should be at least a quart of broth per serving. Any less will not cover all the ingredients and does not allow for a second helping.


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